* Nickel down for five straight sessions
* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Adds closing prices, Siberia copper)
By Zandi Shabalala
LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Nickel hit its weakest since January on Tuesday, leading London metals lower as concerns over rising trade tensions between China and the United States benefited the dollar.
Benchmark nickel ended down 2.5 percent at $12,470 per tonne, having touched its lowest since Jan. 19 at $12,375. The metal logged its fifth straight session of declines.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to ramp up the trade war by imposing tariffs on $200 billion more of Chinese imports as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends this week.
“Market participants are waiting on the sideline for more comments from Trump probably announcing new tariffs on Chinese imports,” said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.
“In addition, there is concern that the smouldering crisis in emerging markets will weigh heavily on metals prices because so far the EMs are a big driver of metals demand.”
The dollar’s status as chief reserve currency makes it the primary beneficiary of concerns over trade conflicts, causing commodities priced in the greenback to be more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Meanwhile, emerging market currencies have been hit as investors feared these export-oriented economies would be caught in the middle of any escalating trade conflict.
NICKEL: Prices are “weighed down by an increase in nickel ore inventory at China and rising stainless steel inventory,” Argonaut Securities wrote in a note.
TANGSHAN: There are market expectations that the city of Tangshan, China’s leading steelmaking hub, could introduce new output cuts in September to curb harmful emissions, which have buoyed priced for Shanghai rebar steel.
ALCOA STRIKE: A vote by striking workers at Alcoa’s giant west Australian operations will close on Thursday, with the union anticipating a strong “no” vote that could prolong the four-week old strike.
CHINA ALUMINIUM: The city of Binzhou in eastern China’s Shandong province, home to top aluminium producer China Hongqiao Group, is planning five new projects to support development of a high-end aluminium industry, according to a local government document.
CODELCO: Chilean state miner Codelco halted the operations of three out of four furnaces at its Ventanas copper foundry on Monday after finding high levels of sulphur dioxide.
SIBERIA COPPER: A firm owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s holding company said it had started construction of a massive mining and metallurgical plant at the Udokan copper deposit in a remote region in eastern Siberia.
OTHER METALS: Copper eased 2.5 percent to $5,815 per tonne, aluminium fell 1.7 percent to $2,062, zinc slipped 1.9 percent to $2,416, lead fell 2.1 percent to $2,076.50, while tin inched 0.1 percent lower to $18,825.
Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE and Tom Daly in BEIJING; editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans